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Flights of Love: Stories [Hardcover]

Bernhard Schlink
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 2 2001
From the internationally best-selling author of The Reader, here is a collection of stories that weave themselves around the idea of love—love to seek and love to flee; love as desire, as guilt, as confusion or self-betrayal; love as habit, as affair, and as life-changing rebellion.

As his myriad fans know from The Reader, Bernhard Schlink’s power as a storyteller resides in his cool compassion and in the intelligence that he wields like a laser to penetrate human motives and human behavior. Here his subject is not history but the heart itself, and with the forensic delicacy of a master he lays bare the essence of our feelings.

Already an enormous success in the author’s native Germany, Flights of Love is certain to be celebrated, discussed, read and re-read.

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From Amazon

Flights of Love sees Bernhard Schlink build on the success of his international bestselling debut novel, The Reader, with a clutch of short stories that tell of the variety of love, distilled into seven splinters of narrative. The pick of the seven, the opening "Girl with Lizard," depicts a remote male character who fixates on a painting of his father's, which he is to discover, like his father, has a familiarly unsavory past, and which he is impelled to exorcise. In the book's centerpiece, "Sugar Peas," architect and amateur painter Thomas finds that his trio of lovers avenge themselves on his profligacy after he is left wheelchair-bound by an accident. "The Other Man" presents a widower corresponding with his dead wife's unwitting lover, and finding comfort through acquaintance. Less successfully, "The Circumcision" sees the pretext of a German man and his New York Jewish girlfriend to ponder huge, chewy rhetoric on the problems of reconciling the past, almost absentmindedly concocting an improbable denouement. Schlink too often presents scenarios rather than scenes, more intent on dislocated dilemma than language. In keeping with his legal training, he discerns lines of attack more suited to a drama, or perhaps a courtroom drama, than fiction. There can be no doubting Schlink's storytelling acumen or his undertaking to tackle the complicated identity of modern Germany. What is increasingly exposed, though, are the supporting mechanisms that too frequently serve to reinforce, rather than challenge, our assumptions with their didactic contrivance. --David Vincent,

From Publishers Weekly

Schlink's The Reader was a surprise bestseller on these shores, discovered by Oprah and established by word of mouth. The writer's mastery of form, concise yet thorough probing of character, and concern with the moral implications of human behavior are again in evidence in these seven gripping stories. German men are protagonists in each of them, with some traits in common: a need for order, efficiency, respectability and righteousness, and a difficulty in expressing emotion. While the settings are mainly in Germany, two stories take place in North America and one in an unnamed South American country. Though love is the common emotion in each, not a trace of sentimentality mars the tensile energy of the narratives. Instead, Schlink examines the wounds inflicted by history and bitterness, jealousy and regret, neglect and repressed emotions. The penalties of love, and the lack of it, are paid by spouses, lovers, children. "A Little Fling," perhaps the most haunting story in the collection, deals with the legacy of betrayal fostered by the Berlin Wall. The shadow of the Holocaust prevents a man from experiencing love in "Girl with Lizard" and bewilders another young man in "The Circumcision," whose title threatens to remove suspense, but Schlink adds a quietly devastating twist at the end. Despite Schlink's matter-of-fact depiction of events, "The Other Man" and "Sugar Peas" can test credibility, but both stories are anchored in such strikingly portrayed characters that the reader's trust remains strong. The clarity of Schlink's vision and the calm eloquence with which it's expressed make these tales classics of their genre. First serial to the New Yorker.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Sadly Disappointing Jan. 28 2004
I thought Bernhard Schlink's novel, THE READER, was one of the best books I'd read in years, so I was really happy when I learned of this volume of short stories.
Perhaps the title, FLIGHTS OF LOVE, caused me to expect stories that would be somewhat fanciful; that would be infused with lyricism and poetry (which was exactly what I was looking for at the time). Instead, I found stories that attempted a gritty reality but were, more often than not, quite awkward, both in construction and in language. I certainly can't blame the translation for this because I read these stories in the original German edition, published as LIEBESFLUCHTEN. THE READER was definitely a gritty novel, but it also possessed a grace and dignity I found almost completely lacking in these stories. The two exceptions were the first story, "Girl With Lizard," which, though quite gritty, was also poignant and thoroughly believable and "The Son," which was powerful and subdued.
For the most part, Schlink's characters indulge in the most improbable, rash and downright inane actions...all in the name of love. Perhaps these are the "flights" mentioned in the title, although I saw them more as flights of sheer stupidity than of love. Love really doesn't play a very big part in these stories; infatuation and hormonal inbalance does.
The book's centerpiece, "Sugar Peas," was woven around a premise so preposterous as to be downright silly. Same with "The Circumcision." That story's main character does something very few grown men in their right mind would do and what's worse, he does it for all the wrong reasons. The closing story, "The Woman at the Gas Station" could have been good if only Schlink had allowed his character to make a different decision.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of my absolute favorites Aug. 2 2003
Let's face it: Most books are pretty good, but few are great. Well, this is one of the great ones. Normally, I prefer a novel to short story collection, but I have to say that this collection is better than most novels. Schlink seems to ask himself, "To what strange places might love drive a person?" His writing is distinctly un-American: poetic, deeply intimate, concise, and above all unashamed. The overall effect is provacative and thought provoking. Each story is unique and unattached to the next, but still focuses on the premise of people driven throughout their lives by love. Each story shows a different way that love can effect a person: in one story, love brings them together, in another drives them apart, in another it causes infidelity, in another it sends a man looking after the man that the dead wife had an affair with. With his Kundera-esque writing style, I was riveted to Schlink's book. Subjects covered: war, religion, art, travel, infidelity, circumcision, lies, sex, falling out of love, family relationships, Jewish prejudice against a German. In each story, the person seems inexplicably driven to these strange places, driven to make strange choices. The "flights" seem unconcious and inevitable, each resulting conflict the believable outcome of the characters personality. Each story flows naturally, and yet, the conflict and resolution is unexpected. If you like this, you may really like "Searching For Intruders" by Byler or "Kissing in Manhatten" by Schlinker.
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3.0 out of 5 stars WHAT GOES UP, MUST COME DOWN Dec 12 2002
Bernhard Schlink's FLIGHTS OF LOVE is a curious, uneven, confounding and sometimes brave assemblage of stories, none of which has anything whatsoever to do with actual "flights" of our most treasured and elusive emotion. DIVES OF LOVE would have been considerably more accurate. But that's not a criticism. Schlink delivers some fine swans and at least one Triple-Lindy. My favorite has to be the opener, GIRL WITH LIZARD. There is a strange redemptive quality here, and, as with all of Schlink's fiction, a definite chill in the air. He is playing to his strength when he maintains a good distance from his characters, revealing slowly all the hidden gross machinery that drives them to do what he has them do. When Schlink fails, he does so just as grandly, God bless his Nordic soul. Best example of that, I think, has to be THE CIRCUMCISION, a miserable, too-long, improbable, atmospheric polemic about cold-blooded posturing, hair-trigger sensibilities, and not much else. When Schlink attempts a much warmer author/character relationship, the results are strained, frozen, and never very good. Stories like GIRL WITH LIZARD, SUGAR PEAS, and THE OTHER MAN really go a long way toward saving FLIGHTS OF LOVE from becoming one of the sloppiest diving teams anyone ever saw.
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3.0 out of 5 stars NICELY WRITTEN, but... Sept. 23 2002
...something about Schlink's writing leaves me personally cold -- his novel THE READER left me feeling the same way. I recognize his talent and abilities, but I just don't enjoy the paths that his fiction takes. While all of these stories deal with aspects of love, I would suggest that the word 'flights' in the collection's title refers more to the concept of fleeing from love than to the soaring heights to which it can take people.
It seemed to me that every single story in this collection dealt with someone's failure at love, their disappointment in it, their disillusionment with it, or their guilt about the way they had treated someone they loved. In 'The circumcision', a German man is offended when his American fiancée refers to his 'German-ness' and remarks that her friends looked at him in this light as well. One of the characteristics she assigns to him in this regard is his cold obsession with organization. Frankly, I can see a similar trait in Schlink's work -- and please understand that's not to say that he's not a brilliant writer. I guess the worst thing I can say that he's just not my 'cup of tea.'
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Love isnt'easy
Love is not easy: not only attaining it, winning the heart of your loved one, but, most difficult and most important, keeping it. Read more
Published on Dec 1 2002 by Ventura Angelo
5.0 out of 5 stars Promises met
Bernhard Schlink created a devoted following with the translation of his first novel THE READER. Opinion was divided among critics and readers as to whether or not this author was... Read more
Published on Sept. 8 2002 by Grady Harp
4.0 out of 5 stars NOT WHAT I EXPECTED
When I finished THE READER, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I was convinced that the book was autobiogrpahical and that Bernhard Schlink had done what may writers do; tell the one... Read more
Published on June 23 2002 by C. Ellen Connally
4.0 out of 5 stars simple, sharp stories
If you like simple books with strong message, this is the book for you. This book brings interesting dilemmas in which you can relate to the main character. Read more
Published on May 5 2002 by Irena Jakobsdatter
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
I read "The Reader" and had to get more Schlink. These short stories are incredible. The dialogue and story settings are all extremely well crafted and each story will... Read more
Published on April 17 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Not What I Expected
This is the first book I have read by Bernhard Schlink. Based upon this initial exposure to his work, I look forward to reading other books he has written that are being translated... Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2002 by taking a rest
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
I totally fell in love with this book. I seemed to like each story better than the last.... "Girl With Lizard" would have been my fave though, if I had to pick just one. Read more
Published on Dec 7 2001 by Leebee
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and compelling stories
Bernard Schlink has done it again: created a small masterpiece, with this group of seven short stories. Read more
Published on Nov. 7 2001 by Lynn Adler
5.0 out of 5 stars The Explorer of the Human Soul
It may be a cliche, but Bernhard Schlink is a master storyteller. These stories surprise and fascinate in the same way as *The Reader*. Read more
Published on Oct. 9 2001 by Dennis M. Patterson
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